During the month of April, the immeasurable contributions of Arab Americans to the United States are recognized through National Arab American Heritage Month (NAAHM). 2021 marks the first official federal recognition of April as NAAHM. Currently, nearly four million Arab Americans live in the United States.
The Arab World
According to the Arab America Foundation, the Arab World is comprised of 22 countries, represented by the League of Arab States and include Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Somalia among its nations. These nations are divided into three major geographical regions: the Maghreb (North Africa), the Gulf region, and the Levant. The Arab World is extremely diverse in terms of its people, history, dialects and local customs. There is no one version of Arab culture. Though there is commonality based on shared language — with distinct dialects — and values, many differences exist among Arab peoples.
Across communities throughout the Arab World, the themes of faith — regardless of a specific faith tradition — family and community are often central to their lives. Arabs have many faith backgrounds. The three Abrahamic traditions (Islam, Christianity and Judaism) are the faiths primarily represented among the Arab communities.
The Arab World Is Not the Middle East
The grouping “Middle East” refers to a region of the world that is linked by a shared location, but not a common culture. Therefore, not all Arabs are Middle Eastern. It should also not be assumed that all Arabs practice Islam. Arabs and Muslims are two different sets of people. In fact, of the top ten countries with the largest Muslim populations, only three are Arab nations. While Muslims can be found all over the world, they are predominantly found in parts of Africa and Asia.
Celebrating Arab Americans
Arab American immigration to the United States began in the late 1800s. During early phases of immigration, many families came to work in the auto industry in Detroit during its industrial boom. To this day, the suburbs in and around Dearborn, Michigan have some of the largest Arab American communities in the United States. Today, Arab Americans are integrated into every aspect of professional and economic life in the United States. Some of the many prominent Arab Americans across a variety of professions include: Frank Zappa (legendary rock guitarist), Hoda Kotb (Egyptian American television host), Donna Shalala (former US Secretary of Health & Human Services, President of the University of Miami), Elias Corey (Nobel Prize in Chemistry winner, 1990), and Steve Jobs (Co-founder, former chairman and CEO of Apple, Inc.).
BSD to Launch State’s First Public Arabic Language Program
The Bellevue School District is delighted to launch its Arabic Language Program, a component of the district’s Heritage Language Project, in the fall of 2023. The Arabic language elementary program will begin with over 130 students across grades K-2 and will be homed at Ardmore Elementary School. In addition to the Bellevue School District elementary curriculum, students in the elementary Arabic Language Program will engage in Arabic literacy and language instruction. The secondary Arabic Language Program for students in grades 6-12 will be offered for the first time this fall at the district’s comprehensive middle and high schools through a synchronous class period.
The Heritage Language Project launched with the Arabic Language program this year, receiving a swell of support from the Bellevue and neighboring community. This program marks the first public Arabic language program in the state and provides an opportunity for all interested students to take part in an Arabic language program that is widely available, affordable and accessible.
Future programs under consideration for the district’s Heritage Language Project include a Korean Language Program and a Hindi Language Program for upcoming academic years.